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Barclays picks Lazard to sell Asia wealth unit - sources

SINGAPORE/LONDON (Reuters) - Barclays BARC.L is pressing ahead with the sale of its Asian private wealth business and has picked Lazard LAZ.N to help advise on the deal amid efforts to scale back its Asian operations, three sources with knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

A couple walks past a Barclays logo in Johannesburg December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Credit Suisse CSGN.VX is among a handful of banks which have expressed an interest in making a bid, the sources said, adding talks were at an early stage.

If successful, the deal would help the Swiss bank win market share in a highly-competitive wealth management market in Asia, led by global players such as UBS UBSG.VX and Citigroup C.N.

Credit Suisse is evaluating the synergies it could extract from Barclays’ portfolio of high net-worth individuals in Asia, one of the sources said, cautioning a deal was not certain.

Barclays, Lazard and Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Reuters reported on Dec. 18 that DBS Group Holdings DBSM.SI and Julius Baer BAER.VX were likely to enter the race for the unit which could be valued at about $600 million.

Barclays is looking to sell its Asian private wealth unit as part of new Chief Executive Jes Staley’s strategy of cutting costs and selling off non-core assets.

The British bank recently worked with Lazard to sell its Italian bank branches to CheBanca!, the retail arm of Mediobanca MDBI.MI.

Barclays managed $36 billion in private banking assets in Asia as of 2014, according to a survey by industry publication Private Banker International, ranking it 14th in Asia.

UBS and Citigroup were the top private banks in Asia, the survey said, followed by Credit Suisse which has made Asia its priority region for business growth, echoing moves by UBS.

ASIAN PUSH

Credit Suisse’s new chief Tidjane Thiam, who spearheaded strong growth in Asia in his previous job at insurer Prudential, said in October he wanted to more than double income from Asia to 2.1 billion Swiss francs ($2.1 billion) by 2018.

The Swiss bank, world No.4 in private banking, is keen to expand among the growing ranks of Asia’s billionaires to offset its sliding investment banking business in Europe.

UBS launched its push into wealth management in Asia in 2011 and managed about $272 billion in 2014, almost double Credit Suisse’s Asia-Pacific wealth business.

Asia excluding Japan is forecast to double its net millionaire wealth to $17.7 trillion by 2018, according to McKinsey.

The region has seen a spate of deals in private banking since the financial crisis, notably in 2009 when ING offloaded its Asian private bank to Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp for $1.5 billion.

($1 = 1.0148 Swiss francs)

Additional reporting by Joshua Franklin in Zurich; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Mark Potter

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